May 8, 2014
It’s that time of the year again for the ‘Boom bang a bang’ jamboree that is the Eurovision song contest! It is an event that lends itself to exploitation in the classroom in a number of ways, so here are a few ideas:
- Pupils could consider what constitutes ‘Europe’ and think about the differences between the geographical (or indeed historical) concept of Europe compared to membership of the European Union and the European broadcasting union. Pupils could be given a list of countries in the language they are learning and match them to the English (or simply work out what the English is)/plot where the countries are on a map and/or create a venn diagram showing how the various countries relate to the different concepts of ‘Europe’.
- Pupils could practise their reading skills and using numbers in the target language by doing a quiz on Eurovision facts and figures. The example in this presentation is in French but could be easily adapted to other languages.
- Pupils could listen to short extracts from some of the songs and have a Group Talk type discussion about the songs/music/video they like and why. The Eurovision site has links to all the songs, including videos.
Those are ideas for activities that could be used year after year at Eurovision song contest time. Then of course, there are the songs themselves. Increasingly there are fewer and fewer entries where the contestants are singing in their own language (or at least in the languages most commonly taught in the UK classroom). A cursory glance through this year’s songs reveal that the Belgian, German, Austrian and Swiss entries are all sung in English.
Thankfully France has bucked the trend with a cracking upbeat number from the group Twin Twin entitled Moustache. On the Eurovision site you can see the wonderfully retro looking video which the group has created; this takes the form of a game show in which the contestant really wants to win a moustache! It has already proved to be a bit controversial with the accusation that the group has plaigerised the song Papaoutai by Stromae
On the face of it the desire for a moustache might seem very bizarre but actually the song is satirising modern values which puts material things above some of the more simple things in life. So some ideas to exploit the song and its accompanying video:
- Comprehension work on the lyrics – what words do pupils already know, what can they work out from the context and other clues etc. The lyrics are actually fairly straightforward and can be found on the Eurovision site here.
- Using the lyrics to do some grammar work, especially the use of the present tense.
- Taking screenshots of the video to describe appearance – there are some pretty wacky hairstyles!
- Using the lyrics to get pupils to think about their values in life and what other simple things someone might wish for, such as love, friends, happiness or health. Pupils could be given a list of things to rank in order of importance and say why. They could also be shown pictures of people in different situations; they have to imagine what these people would say that they would wish for.
Finally, for pupils learning Spanish there is Ruth Lorenzo’s Dancing in the Rain which uses a mix of Spanish and English – the lyrics can be found in a link from here.
December 1, 2013
The London Branch of the Association for Language Learning hosted another Greg Horton Special yesterday, inviting Greg to speak about his inspirational and award winning project for getting pupils to use the target language spontaneously and in an authentic way – Group Talk.
Following his previous visit about 18 months ago I got together with our lovely Hanban teacher and put together the following presentation to teach pupils the key phrases for introducing the first stage of Group Talk to the my Year 12 learners. They responded incredibly well and with great enthusiasm; they were able to see how the core phrases could be used across a range of topics.
To begin with we gave them the following sheet of these core Group Talk phrases laminated for reference on the desk, but as they grew more familiar with them the support became less necessary. What is particularly gratifying is the fact that they will now come out with some of the core phrases at an appropriate moment during the normal course of a lesson. For example, I might make a statement about something and they comment with 真的吗?！ (really?!) or 我不同意 (I don’t agree) off their own bat.
October 2, 2013
Water, water everywhere is the theme of this year’s National Poetry day, an annual “nationwide celebration of poetry for everyone everywhere”. It falls on the first Thursday in October which this year just happens to coincide with Germany’s National day, or Tag der deutschen Einheit, on October 3rd.
When I was learning German (many moons ago!) both my grandmothers, a maths and art teacher respectively, took great delight in showing me what German they knew by reciting a German poem – Die Lorelei by Heinrich Heine. I’m sure that the reason that they could remember it word perfect years after first coming across the poem was due to the repetition of sounds, rhymes and rhythms. They may even have heard and learnt the words set to music. If so that too would have helped to fix the words in their mind.
The story of the Lorelei luring the fishermen to their death on the Rhine whilst combing her golden hair fits perfectly with the theme for this year’s National poetry day, so if you are tempted to give it a go here are a couple of videos that could be used to introduce it to students. The first is a spoken version of the poem showing the text with the music of the song version in the background:
The second version the song version without text but is of a boat trip on the Rhine:
Of course is the weather is not so good on National Poetry day maybe a rain inspired poem might fit the bill rather better?
Having got into the theme of water poetry I had a look for French as well.
For younger and beginner learners of French how about this poem entitled La Mer by Paul Fort? Paul Eluard’s poem Poisson is also quite accessible. A wider collection of water themed or inspired poems can be found here as well as this anthology put together by a class from Grenoble. Finally I found some examples of water inspired poems written by French school children.
With the requirement for pupils to be exposed to literary texts under the new national curriculum there’s no time like an occasion such as National Poetry Day to get started…
March 2, 2013
Did you know that Regional TV programmes are the second most popular type of TV programme that Germans like to watch? In the number one slot come news programmes with sport at number 3. Crime and detective series are number 4 followed by programmes about politics and economics.
All this is according to the statistics put out by Statista.de and comes from a section entitled Toplisten. This section of the website includes picture galleries of favourite snacks (fruit and raw food comes in at number 1), the most annoying things that women say (!), the actual most watched TV programmes in Germany, what Germans like to do in their free time and the most popular uses of a mobile phone amongst other things.
Statistics are an example of an authentic resource that can easily be exploited in the classroom:
- For giving a cultural angle to whatever topic is being studied.
- In a Group talk type speaking scenario; if pupils have been learning the vocabulary for food and snacks they could be shown pictures of Germans’ favourite snacks and ask to speculate which they think comes top and why and compare it to their own favourites.
- For practising numbers.
- As a comparison to the results of surveys that they carry out in the classroom.
- The short text that accompanies the pictures in the “Top lists” mentioned above could be used for introducing language and/or helping pupils develop strategies for working out the meaning of new words.
This website also has infographics which are ideal for use with KS5 classes, although some like this one on fast food could easily be used at KS3 and KS4 as well.
Sites that have statistics relating to France include Statistique publique and Insee, although neither of these present the information in quite such a user friendly way as Statista.de….
January 29, 2013
In my previous two posts I wrote about a series of short video clips in French and in Chinese. Now for German…..this website has a terrific collection (approx 146,000!) of short video clips lasting a mere 45 seconds or less.
They are principally information videos covering a huge range of topics including famous places, people and events. The sound is, I suspect, computer generated and uses text from Wikipedia articles (Wikipedia.de). Don’t let that put you off however, as each video is accompanied by a selection of images relating to the topic which make it clear what it is about even if pupils are unable to understand all that is said; these images on their own without any sound are particularly useful for giving a culturally specific angle to a topic
These videos would be perfect for developing listening skills at KS5 – pupils could attempt to transcribe what they hear and then compare with the Wikipedia.de entry for that topic. Even at KS3 and KS4 there are some that would be accessible with some support, or with a simple task; for example pupils could be asked to list the order in which the colours blue, green, red, white and yellow are mentioned in this video about Newweling (a traditional candle from Mainz). In the video about the Oktoberfest they could be asked to pick out numbers and dates.
January 24, 2013
I’ve just come across a fantastic series of videos about regions in France produced by SNCF voyages courtesy of the J’aime le français page on Facebook. There are over 100 short videos most lasting under 4 minutes which cover the length and breadth of France. Some are a “visite guidée” to a town or region, so obviously tie in very well with any travel, tourism and holiday related lesson, but there are a surprising number of other videos that relate to other themes:
- Shopping – this video introduces viewers to Isabelle, a “personal shopper” at the Galeries Lafayette and to the language to talk about your clothes. It then moves to a boutique which sells some pretty wacky glasses and shoes, amongst other things, and finally it looks at some areas of Paris with small “trendy” individual shops.
- Green tourism – in this series of videos a number of personalities (the singer Nolwenn Leroy, the chef Alain Passard, and the explorer Nicolas Vanier) explain what “green tourism” means for them.
- Food – Un week-end gastronomique introduces some of the specialities from Lyon and sees the presenter in the kitchen!
And so much more….
These short videos can be exploited in a number or ways, some of which need not involve too much preparation beyond familiarising yourself briefly with the content beforehand:
- Give pupils a list of some words in French which appear in the video but which are new to them and which could be useful; get the pupils to put up their hands whenever they hear one of these words
- Give pupils a short list of words from the video, ask them if they can work out the meaning from the context
- Choose a few key words from the video, get pupils to put them in the order in which they hear them
- Pupils jot down words as they watch the video – these could either ones they can work out from the context, or ones they want to know the meaning of
- To gauge pupils’ level of overall comprehension – give them a series of true/statements to which they respond on mini whiteboards – these statement could be in English or French
- More advanced pupils could make up their own questions in French about what they have seen, or produce a brief oral or written summary
August 31, 2012
The last week of the Summer holidays will have seen many teachers beavering away at preparations for the start of the new school year. It’s very easy once we’re back into the swing of things to lose sight of the bigger picture so taking a moment or two in this final week to pause and consider some of the wider issues concerning the future of languages and language teaching could be no bad thing.
There are currently a number of consultations going on which are due to end within the next few weeks; this means that time is running out if we want to have our say.
The future of A levels
The first is a survey run by Ofqual on A level reform which runs until September 11th. Ofqual has published a consultation document on its proposals which include changes to assessment as well as to the content and structure of A levels. Amongst other things Ofqual is proposing an end to the January series of exams and a limit on the number of resits that can be taken to one; this will be with effect from September 2013. They are then looking for revised content for some “priority” subjects to be taught as from September 2014; languages are included in a group of subjects that could form part of the initial phase of reforming the content of what is to be taught. A summary of the proposed timetable of reform is in paragraph 82 of the consultation document. The questions to which Ofqual are seeking responses are listed at the end of this document, and the means of responding are here.
Languages at KS2
Secondly there are just 4 weeks left to make your views known on the government’s proposals for making languages compulsory at KS2. The consultation document can be downloaded from the DfE website as can be the response form. Alternatively responses can be sent to the Association for Language learning who will collate responses that have been sent to firstname.lastname@example.org by September 14th.
Save community languages
Finally there is an online petition to OCR in support of retaining a broad spectrum of languages that are accredited under the Asset languages scheme. At present OCR is planning to offer Asset languages qualification in just French, German, Spanish, Italian and Chinese from 2014; this represents a cut from the current of offer of 25 languages (many of which are community languages) and is OCR’s response to government policy that does not recognise an Asset language qualification as part of the Ebacc.
Join the Campaign for languages
Finally, Speak to the Future is THE campaign for languages and has a whole host of resources which can be used to make the case for and promote languages and language learning – could be useful in the lead up to the European Day of Languages on September 26th. There is also the opportunity to show support for this campaign.